A South Australian inquiry has begun examining whether Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman had a conflict of interest or misled parliament over her decision to refuse a major development application on Kangaroo Island.
As planning minister and attorney-general, Ms Chapman rejected a proposal to build a $40 million port on the island’s north coast to ship plantation timber to the mainland.
Her decision came despite her department ruling that the project could go ahead after an assessment found any environmental concerns could be managed.
Ms Chapman, whose family has long owned property on the island, said at thetime there was no conflict of interest in relation to her decision.
However, the Labor opposition, with support from crossbench MPs, moved to establish a parliamentary select committee to examine her statements to the house and whether there was an actual or perceived conflict.
Opening the inquiry on Tuesday, counsel assisting Rachael Gray QC said two key matters to be investigated related to the property held by Ms Chapman and her family and her personal relationship with Kangaroo Island mayor and former Liberal MP Michael Pengilly and any impact from the proposed port on his interests.
Ms Gray said the inquiry would also examine whether Ms Chapman misled parliament in relation to some of her statements about the development and her decision and whether she had breached the ministerial code of conduct.
“The two key questions for the committee to consider are what constitutes misleading parliament and what constitutes a conflict of interest or abuse of office,” she said.
However, Ms Gray said the committee was a fact-finding exercise and could not make a ruling on whether any breach or conflict had been proved and could not impose any penalties.
If a breach was alleged, the matter must be referred back to the House of Assembly for consideration.
Ms Chapman is scheduled to give evidence on Wednesday and Mr Pengilly on Friday.
It will also hear from representatives of the company behind the proposed port development.